The Year I Turned 18 and Met the Messiah


I turned 18 on December 20, 1977.  To celebrate, I took myself to New York.  This was the era of American Hustle, when the beautiful people were snorting coke and drinking champagne at Studio 54.  As a rocker, however, I wouldn’t be caught dead there.  Instead, I hung out at CBGB or Max’s Kansas City, or even better at Trax, where I could see Richard Belzer kill it with his famous Jagger impression.  It was the place to be if you were a rocker.  And it made for the one of the loneliest birthdays I’ve ever had.

 For one thing, my face had started breaking out.  Or at least that’s what I thought.  I’d covered the spots with make-up, but they kept showing through.  Worse, they were starting to hurt.

By the time my aunt finally took me to her doctor two days later, they covered my entire face.  I was stunned when the doctor told me they were cold sores.  I’d never had one before (or, for that matter since).  I didn’t know you could get them anywhere other than your lip.  And the doctor said they could leave scars. So instead of a fabulous pre-Christmas week in the Big Apple, I was stuck indoors, soaking my face in medicated compresses.  Happy *@*%! birthday to me.

Handel’s Messiah saved me.  As a secular Jew, I would have been reluctant to go to church on Christmas Eve under the best of circumstances.  As a dead ringer for the Elephant Man, there was no way I wanted to hear people sing about Jesus for three hours at a midnight mass.

But music is a funny thing.  At its best, it transcends its subject matter.  And when people come together to celebrate joy, joy is what you get.  Mundane things like religion – or a face that looks like pepperoni pizza – seem to disappear.  And so every December 23rd or so, I skip the mall and head for Disney Hall.  Because while Messiah may not be the most exciting music ever written, there’s something about a room full of people singing the Hallelujah Chorus that embodies the true Christmas spirit and reminds of the best part of our humanity in a way that fighting over that last Play Station on the shelf never will.

 So to all of us this Christmastime — no matter who you are, or what you believe — I wish you Peace on Earth and all the joy in the world.


For more on December 23rd, go to


About Jackie Fuchs

Fuchs’ television and radio appearances have included Crime Time, NPR, Huffington Post Live and The Insider. As Jackie Fox, she played bass with the '70s rock band, The Runaways.
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5 Responses to The Year I Turned 18 and Met the Messiah

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